Celebrating Rochester’s new neighborhood-based family and youth center
September marked the long-awaited opening of the new neighborhood-based family and youth center: The Place. The 55,000-square-foot facility is the incredible outcome of collaboration between the Boys & Girls Club of Rochester (B&GCR) and Child Care Resource & Referral (CCR&R). A nine-year vision, the new center is now home to both organizations where they simultaneously carry out programs for youth and families, help kids and ensure positive beginnings.
DESIGNED FOR WHAT THEY DO
Created with optimal conditions for learning and safety, The Place features flexible spaces, kid-friendly amenities and cutting-edge technology. When you step inside the brightly colored atrium, the happiness of children is evident and enthusiasm is contagious.
“The beauty of this project is that our two organizations have been working together to create a facility that is designed for the program work that we each do with children and youth in our community,” says Patrick Gannon, executive director, Child Care Resource & Referral. “It is the first time either of our organizations has had space that is specifically designed for what we do.”
“Next year, 246 children will be served at The Place,” adds Kristine Stensland, community relations director, CCR&R. “An additional 84 children will receive home-based Head Start services, for a total of 330 children in our community receiving services directly.”
In 2005, a facility-needs committee began researching the shared needs, resources and potential partnership of the Boys & Girls Club of Rochester and Child Care Resource & Referral. The two organizations envisioned moving to one place, as joint owners providing care for children from “cradle to college.”
Together, the programs would use the facility for up to 13 hours a day—with Head Start using it from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. and B&GCR utilizing after school and evening hours. Housing both programs in one building would allow each to meet the growing needs of families through expansion, while cutting expenses for space, staff and other resources.
After much discussion and a feasibility study, the two groups explored potential locations. They learned that many program families lived near the existing Boys & Girls Club on Rochester’s East Center Street, so it became the site for the new collaborative facility.
The new project received financial support from several sources, including the community. Community Finance (a supporting organization of the Rochester Area Foundation) provided financial assistance and expertise in housing development, construction and more. Fundraising began in 2009 and ultimately raised $7.1 million (of the $8 million needed) with ground breaking in November 2012.
“We previously functioned in 14,000 square feet,” says Jodi Millerbernd, executive director, Boys & Girls Club of Rochester. “We now have a facility that we would not be able to support without the partnership of Head Start. We serve 1,300 youth annually and about 150 per day. We are expecting our membership to grow and our average daily attendance to double.”
Now, with a facility three times as large, kids have room to explore. In the B&GCR Kids’ Zone, youth are drawn to the action of activities geared toward ages 8–11. The space includes bold aqua, yellow and red décor with cloud-like ceiling features and zebra-print upholstery. The Discovery Zone incorporates lots of natural light and inspires 6- and 7-year-olds to get involved. The nearby Teen Center, with brightly colored walls, a pool table and outdoor patio for 12- to 18-year olds, is a casual environment where kids can be themselves. Comfortable seating and game-room entertainment help create the ultimate, age-appropriate hangout in each space.
A performing arts room, with amenities such as a ballet bar and piano keyboard, shapes character development. A highlight of the center is a new, regulation-size gymnasium, complete with hardwood flooring and scoreboards for basketball, volleyball and other recreational activities.
The Place allows B&GCR to provide expanded activities and support for youth and “allows kids to be kids in a safe environment,” says Millerbernd.
FIT FOR LEARNING
“The Place allowed us to bring three different center operations together to provide Head Start and Early Head Start in one site,” explains Sandy Simar, Head Start director, Child Care Resource & Referral.
The new facility, which features 10 new classrooms for Head Start, was an important factor in gaining endorsement for the Early Head Start program in 2010.
All details were carefully planned, right down to wall and floor colors, and include protective technology, innovative sliding doors, large restrooms and accordion-style room dividers. Warm cream and gold tones enhance the hallways, while Head Start classrooms feature cool blue hues.
“It was deliberately designed for security and shared programming,” explains Gannon, who points out that the floor plan allows for line-of-sight views and greater awareness of the children. “The theory in the classroom is that the kids are the color,” he adds, noting each room is now becoming individualized with learning props and decor.
Named after trees—fir, aspen, oak and more—each classroom promotes the growth and well-being of children and is easily identified. Windows are strategically placed to let in natural light and minimize distractions. Smart boards in every classroom help bring lessons to life.
ACHIEVING GREATER EFFICIENCIES
The center allows for efficiencies in operations, as well as continuity of care for the children. Well-defined routes provide easy access to bus transportation and outdoor open spaces, as well as the playground, man-made hill and a tricycle path. Previously a child would have to change centers and teachers if his or her family moved.
Now, children who relocate with their families will just ride a different bus to provide a continuity of teachers and peers.
A full commercial kitchen allows for preparation of approximately 170,000 meals and snacks a year, such as homemade pancakes, which are made from scratch using fresh ingredients. Meals are delivered to the classrooms and served family-style.
“It is exciting to be able to prepare and serve nutritious meals that will come primarily from locally grown and raised food,” says Simar.
“The best part of the project so far has been walking through the facility and seeing the great work that happens when decisions are made with the mission in mind,” says Stensland. “Every decision affecting The Place was made in ‘the best interest of children and families.’ Collaboration between two distinct organizations with two boards, two budgets and two cultures isn’t an easy endeavor, but it produces powerful results.”